Here are the top 10 most asked consulting interview questions along with sample answers that will show the interviewer that you are well-prepared for the interview, understand the role, and a good candidate for the job.
1. Why have you chosen consulting?
The interviewer wants to find out how serious you are about consulting. Use your answer to show the interviewer how your skills fit with consulting and that you have a genuine interest in the business. Show that you have researched the industry and let them know why you have chosen this industry over other potential choices. Tell the interviewer how your skills and experience fit with this industry and share your career aspirations.
I see consulting as an opportunity to work for senior executives early in my career. It also allows me to have a positive impact on the firm. I understand one of your recent projects involved helping an energy company build a trading unit. That is the type of project I would be interested in getting involved in. I also see consulting as an opportunity for me to learn quickly. I appreciate that the start of a project will be intense, possibly uncomfortably so. I also appreciate that the intensity will help me learn at a quicker rate, particularly as I understand performance feedback will be a frequent part of the role.
2. What is it that attracts you to the firm?
The interviewer is looking to find out how much knowledge you have of the industry and what has drawn you to pick this specific firm. To answer this question well, you must do your homework before
the interview. Know and understand the firm and have logical reasons why you have chosen this firm over others. It’s helpful to know about the values of the firm, often stated on its website, and how those values align with your values. You should ensure your answers are specific to the firm. Giving generic answers that could apply to any firm will not convince the interviewer that you specifically want to work for this firm. Be enthusiastic in your answer.
I understand that the culture here is very collaborative and supportive. I think that is important for my personal development. The fact that training events are attended not just by people locally but worldwide means I will meet and learn from different people. I consider the diversity of this firm to be important. Feedback is also important and knowing that those who work with me provide a performance rating will push me extra hard to always strive for excellence.
3. Tell me about a time you set and achieved a goal outside your comfort zone.
The interviewer wants to know about a past project. They want to know what the goal was, what your initial plan to achieve the goal was, and the steps you ended up taking to achieve the goal. Don’t just tell the interviewer that you set a goal and achieved it. Make sure you explain your thought process to the interviewer so that they can understand how you arrived at various decisions as you worked your way to your goal. Let the interviewer know that even if a goal is outside your comfort zone, you can handle that. Show you can assess a problem and work towards the goal within the time frame you have set. Show that you can be flexible and deal with issues that arise unexpectedly, modifying your initial plan to achieve your desired results. If you have not set a goal and achieved it, be prepared to explain how you would do so with an example goal.
In my last role, they asked me to present a project plan to the senior executives and gain full approval of the plan. I was not comfortable with public speaking. I was apprehensive about being able to present the plan coherently, answer questions, and persuade the senior executives that this project plan was the appropriate path forward. I had two days to prepare for the presentation, so I spent some time ensuring I knew the plan and the reasons behind the plan as well as I could. I practiced presenting the plan and thought about the questions I was likely to be asked. At the beginning of the presentation, I was nervous and stumbled with my words, but I took a few seconds to breathe and refocus. I immediately got back on track, presented the plan, and am pleased to say that I received full approval to move ahead.
4. Tell me how you size a market.
Market sizing is a necessary skill in consultancy as it is how growth potential is calculated. Your answer will show the interviewer your thought process and the tools you used to reach an accurate figure. You won’t have any data or research tools available to you to answer the question, so you will have to clearly explain your approach, as opposed to focusing on the numbers. Use your answer to show your reasoning skills and how you identify market opportunities.
The first step in market sizing is to establish the size of the population and the percentage of people who use the product or service. Surveys can provide valuable data, and comparing the survey data against internal data can help us identify the market share that we are not yet serving and the potential barriers to serving them. Once we identify those, we can work on bringing those barriers down and gaining a larger market share.
5. Tell me about a time you led a team.
A large part of consulting involves teamwork and problem solving, so excellent leadership skills are important in consulting. You should be prepared to describe a time where you worked with a team to develop and implement a solution to a problem. If you don’t have any experience doing this in a professional setting, draw from your personal experiences or volunteer experiences. Be clear about your role as a leader, whether as a formal leader or as someone who worked with others to lead and manage. Talk about how you shaped and managed the team and how your leadership led the team to a successful outcome. If you encountered problems, be honest about them and share how you overcame those problems to reach a successful outcome. Be careful about how you describe others in your team and do not speak negatively about anyone. Do not characterize anyone in your scenario as useless or of little value in order to make yourself look better. Make sure your example also shows that you can work well as part of a team.
In college, I organized a charity event. The first thing I did was to recruit a group of hardworking individuals who were passionate about the charity to handle the various tasks necessary to ensure the fundraiser was successful. Then, I divided the people into committees based on their interests and the work we needed to do. By organizing the work by teams and by delegating work in this manner, we were able to raise 30% more for the charity than our target sales goal.
6. Describe a time you have failed and what you learned from that failure.
We all have failures in our past. The interviewer wants to know about failure in your life, big or small, so they can understand how you respond to failure. Use your answer to show the interviewer that failure doesn’t stop you and that you use it as an opportunity to learn. A suitable method to use in this answer is the STAR method. Describe a Situation, the Task, the Action you took, and the Result. In your answer, make sure that you do not criticize others. Focus on your role, what you did to achieve the result you wanted.
My family could not afford to send me to college and no one in my family had ever gone to college. To go, I knew I had to earn a scholarship. It was my dream to go, for myself and my parents. To achieve my dream, I applied for every scholarship I could find where I met the eligibility requirements. That meant that I received a significant number of rejections. With every rejection, I asked for feedback so I could improve my next application and give myself the best chance of being successful. Eventually, I was offered a full scholarship, went to college, and graduated debt-free. To achieve that result, I had to be persistent and keep my focus on my goal despite the numerous rejections.
7. What would you do to increase profits for the firm?
The interviewer is testing your knowledge of the industry. They want to know if you have researched the firm before the interview. Your answer should be specific to the firm, not generic. Address any key issues the industry and the firm are facing. It is also your opportunity to critique the decisions and processes of the firm, constructively.
In the current climate, a firm must be adaptable and agile. The industry is highly competitive. I would review the revenue and profit margins of the products and services being delivered. Once I had identified the revenue and profit margins, any products or services delivering low revenue or margins would be examined further. The purpose of doing that would be to determine whether we could increase the revenues and margins. If we could not increase the revenues and margins, then I would recommend that we cut these products and services. The focus would be better placed on those products and services which deliver higher margins and revenues.
8. When working on a project, how do you adapt to the culture of the firm?
Consulting jobs can last just a few weeks or can last years. In a consulting role, you should be able to adapt to the culture of the workplace you are in. By asking this question, the interviewer is looking to test your collaboration skills. Focus on the method you follow to adapt to new cultures and share your views on the importance of teamwork and building relationships.
I recognize that each workplace has a unique culture. To ensure I fit in with the existing culture, I try to find out as much as I can about a new firm. That helps me consider ways I can adapt to fit in. That might mean changing certain processes, how I dress, or how I communicate with team members. I find that if I can talk with other employees before starting, I gain a better understanding of the culture. If I cannot find out much before starting, I use the early days in a new workplace to proactively assess the culture and figure out what I need to do to fit in.
9. What would you say are your major strengths?
This question lets the interviewer know that you understand some of your strengths, and how those strengths might be useful in a consulting role. Talk about strengths that you can provide examples of if asked. This shows the interviewer that your strengths are genuine, and you are not telling the interviewer what you think they want to hear. Choose strengths relevant to the role. Good examples are strong leadership skills, self-motivation, excellent communication skills, and an ability to solve problems.
I think my major strengths are my communication and analytical skills. Being able to build a strong relationship with a team takes strong communication skills and good interpersonal skills. An example of those skills is that I have built successful teams in my previous roles. Projects also involve analyzing data and solving problems, and I possess strengths in that area which have enabled me to provide solutions and lead previous projects to successful conclusions.
10. Tell me about your weaknesses.
It may be easier to describe a weakness rather than a strength, but you should carefully consider how you would answer this question. You want to pick a weakness or weaknesses that show you recognize the areas where you can improve. Do not pick a weakness that is a core skill in a consulting role. This question is designed to allow the interviewer to find out how you handle weak areas. It lets you talk about what you are doing or are prepared to do to manage the negative effect a weakness may have on the firm. Your weakness should not be one that could become a problem for the firm. For example, it would likely be a deal killer if you answered that your weakness is not being able to receive feedback well.
Sometimes I can become so excited and focused on rolling out a project that I forget to be mindful of my presentation skills. I can end up speaking too fast, or, depending on the setup of the room, moving around too much. That can make it hard for those I’m presenting to as they may struggle to follow what I am trying to say. I have become much more mindful of the need to slow my speech and movements, and, before each presentation, I do breathing exercises to allow me to be more present and mindful of how I present myself. I also try to position myself in such a way that it isn’t easy for me to move around very much.
Next 40 Most Asked Consulting Interview Questions
- Tell me a bit about yourself.
- Tell me what you consider to be important ethical considerations for a consultant.
- Are there any industries you see growing in the next five years? Why?
- What company do you admire, and why?
- How do you handle constructive feedback?
- Looking at the data in this chart, what would you recommend for this project?
- Why should we hire you?
- If the CEO arrived and asked for an update, how would you respond and ensure you provided valuable information?
- How do you set prices for a project?
- Where do you see your career in three years?
- At a budget review meeting, your project manager asks you to bill for hours not worked, as the project is running severely under budget. Tell me what you would do in that situation.
- Tell me about a time where you persuaded someone to change their mind and follow your ideas.
- What three words would your previous employer use to describe you, and why?
- When setting up a strategic plan, what steps or processes do you follow?
- Thinking of the last conflict you had with a troublesome person, tell me how you resolved the situation.
- What motivates you?
- Can you talk to me about what you consider to be the most critical experiences on your resume?
- What do you consider to be the crucial skills to succeed in consulting?
- Why are you the right person for this consulting role?
- Do you prefer to focus on one project or several projects simultaneously?
- How do you handle giving poor performance reviews?
- You do not have all the resources you need. How do you deal with adjusting the project schedule?
- Tell me how you deal with complex problems.
- What would you say is your biggest accomplishment?
- What type of projects did you enjoy working on most in your previous role?
- Imagine a situation where you are a member of a team and morale is low. How do you resolve this?
- Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a superior. How did you resolve this?
- What would a day in your ideal job look like?
- Have you ever had to do something you didn’t want to do? How did you feel about that?
- What strategies do you use to manage your time?
- How do you cope with stress?
- I want to gain insight into a particular aspect of this industry. How would you recommend I approach the research?
- What do you consider to be your competitive advantage?
- In the next twelve months, we want to achieve savings of 15%. What would you do to help us attain this?
- Tell me about the most challenging client relationship you have had to date.
- We plan to enter a new market. We are considering whether to buy a company already in that market. Alternatively, we are considering developing what we need in-house. How would you go about advising us on the best decision?
- Have you ever had a project that didn’t go as planned? How did you handle that?
- You find yourself in a situation where you must act immediately but without all the facts. How do you handle this?
- How would you conduct a meeting where you are pitching for consulting work from a potential client?
- Tell me about your most challenging project to date.
10 Best Questions to Ask in a Consulting Interview
Once the interviewer has finished asking their questions, normally they will ask if you have questions for them. If the interviewer does not ask you if you have questions, consider asking if there is time for one or more questions. Remember that an interview is a two-way process and you need to understand whether the role is a good fit for you. Also, the questions you ask will show the interviewer you have a genuine interest in the firm.
- What will be expected of me in the first three months?
- In assessing performance, which are the most important areas?
- What do you think are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing the firm right now?
- Do you have mentoring and training programs? If so, could you tell me a little about them please?
- How much input would I have about the types of projects I work on?
- In your opinion, what do you think differentiates your firm from others out there?
- What do you enjoy most about working here?
- What do you consider to be the skills that differentiate a good consultant from an excellent consultant?
- What books would you recommend I read to learn more about the industry and the methods used?
- What impact is the economy having on the firm at present?
When interviewing for a consulting role, ensure you have prepared in advance. Research the industry, follow industry trends, know the information on the firm’s website, and understand the skills needed for the role. Be prepared to give examples to show you have the right skills for the role. And don’t forget to smile and be personable. The interviewer wants someone with the right hard skills, but you also need to fit into the culture of the firm and be someone who the firm’s clients will like.
Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.